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Is Alonso Obscuring Ferrari's Bigger Issues?

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Ferrari, Formula one's most successful team, have had issues of late. Int he first four races of the season, they have won one race in changeable conditions that may betray the actual pace of their F2012 car. Struggling to make the Q3 session in qualifying, Ferrari have been outpaced by their rivals in dry conditions and many believe the driving skills of Fernando Alonso alone are to credit for the teams relatively competitive finish positions.

A few weeks ago, Ferrari's technical boss Pat Fry believed the issue the team are facing are more systemic than just missing the mark on the 2012 chassis. Fry suggested the real issues may be found at the teams HQ in Maranello and its approach to building the cars from material to production to technical and and beyond.

Team boss Stefano Domenicali echoed that notion this week saying:

"We are intensifying the process of changing our working procedures in all areas and, at the same time, we are strengthening our efforts in areas where we are weakest, such as aerodynamics. It's a long term project and one that President Montezemolo is studying at first hand and it is vital to the future of the Scuderia. Formula 1 has changed so much these past few years and we have not always been up to speed with these changes. In this area too we need to step up a gear."

The team have planned upgrades for the coming race in Spain but then again, so do all the other teams and if Ferrari have any hope of remaining in the top tier for 2012, those upgrades will need to be revolutionary in their impact tot he cars performance. The team recently hired Ben Agathangelou who has worked with Red Bull, HRT and Marussia most recently. Fry told AUTOSPORT:

"The biggest performance differentiator is aerodynamics. We've got some issues there that we're trying to resolve," he said.

"We're actually trying to review and revise our methodologies through the whole process and that carries on into the design office for trying to get weight out of various parts, make other bits more durable.

"So there's work going on absolutely everywhere within the company, on the basic fundamental methodology as well as just trying to upgrade the car."

It is a truism that aerodynamics play a huge roll in Formula 1 however, 2012 has seen a more aggressive tire from Pirelli and many teams feel that tire management has become the single biggest element of F1 this season. Domenicali said:

"Tyres seem to be the most important factor: understanding their behaviour in order to settle on a strategy for the race and also for qualifying, as we saw last weekend in Bahrain, pinpointing the right moment for the pit stops, knowing how best to set a time on a single flying lap, based on the track evolution are all crucial elements in the fight for the top places,".

Is it tires? Is it aerodynamics? The short answer...it's both. Ferrari may have an aerodynamic focus, like all teams, and a real struggle managing the new Pirelli tires, like all teams, but perhaps the biggest delta in performance is what is happening behind the scenes in Maranello that is creating the lack of pace and Fry says this has to change.